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Athletics: Mhairi MacLennan chases third victory at Scottish Cross Country Championships

Mhairi MacLennan.
Mhairi MacLennan.

Mhairi MacLennan hopes to maintain her 14 year love affair with the Lindsays Scottish cross country championships by winning the senior women’s title for a third time at Falkirk’s Callendar Park on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Inverness Harriers club member first took part in the winter season’s premier event in 2008 when she finished fourth in the under-13 girls’ race and she has turned out on 12 occasions since then.

She said: “2008 was the first time I competed in any national level competition and I really wasn’t well prepared.

“I had pretty much flat-soled trainers which I used for everything, but they weren’t the best for cross country. I couldn’t understand why I was slipping around when no-one else was.”

MacLennan has competed in all age groups at the national every year since then other than in 2016 when she was studying in Spain, while the 2021 event was cancelled because of the pandemic.

She won her first medal in 2015, collecting silver in the under-20’s race. Her first senior title came in 2018 and after finishing fourth in 2019 she added another gold the following year.

It’s a fine record but MacLennan is typically modest about her achievements, saying: “I really didn’t expect to finish as high as second in the under-20 championships.

“And for my senior titles, to be honest, I fully appreciate that the competition wasn’t as strong as it might have been had everyone shown up.

“But I guess you can only beat who’s there on the day and I’m always happy to take a title. The Scottish cross country title is probably one of the most significant ones to win at national level and it’s always amazing to win.”

Mhairi Maclennan on her way to winning the Scottish Inter District cross country championships at Irvine.

MacLennan goes into tomorrow’s 10k race full of confidence after an impressive third place finish behind Kenya’s Hellen Obiri and England’s Hannah Irwin in last month’s World Athletics Northern Ireland international match and feels she has progressed since then.

She said: “I’ve had a really good block of training and I’m feeling good, so we’ll see how it goes. I love the course at Falkirk and it’s always a good one to do.

“I haven’t looked at the entry list but I know Central AC’s Morag Millar will be there and she’s always strong. I enjoy racing against her, it’s never boring.”

Naomi Lang will lead Aberdeen AAC’s team. The Scotland international has recovered from an Achilles injury which has prevented her from competing since finishing second behind  Morag Millar at the East District championships in early December.

Shetland’s Michelle Sandison, winner of the Scottish masters title in Aberdeen earlier in the month, is to represent Springburn Harriers while North District cross country league champion Kirstie Rogan will turn out for Highland Hill Runners.

Megan Keith steps up Portugal prep

Megan Keith (Inverness Harriers) will tune up for next month’s World University cross country championships in Portugal by competing in tomorrow’s Lindsays Scottish championships at Falkirk.

The 19-year-old Edinburgh University student, who struck European championship gold in her age group in December, starts as the clear favourite to win this weekend’s under-20 women’s 6.8k race around Callendar Park.

She is the title-holder, having won when the event was last held, at the same venue, two years ago.

Megan Keith.

But it will be very much a warm-up for the trip to Portugal on March 12. Keith earned her place on the Great Britain team for the world event after finishing third in the British student championships on a challenging course at Greenford, Middlesex earlier in the month.

She said: “Portugal will be exciting but I’m also looking forward to Falkirk as it should be a fun race and I’m keen to compete there as part of the Edinburgh University team.

“I enjoy running at Falkirk although I hope the course won’t be as muddy as the British Universities. I’ve never done a course like that before, it was unrelenting mud. So, it’s difficult to judge form on the basis of that run but I feel everything is still going well.”

Aberdeen twins Kirsty and Caitlin Purcell will join Keith in a strong Edinburgh University squad tipped to win the team title for the fourth season in a row

Hickey aims for team success

Strathpeffer athlete Hamish Hickey is included in a powerful Central AC squad bidding to win the men’s team title at the Scottish cross country championships for an 11th season in a row.

The event hasn’t been held since 2020 because of the pandemic but Central aim to resume where they left off two years ago.

Scotland international Hickey, a student at Stirling University, is competing in the senior men’s race for the first time after finishing second in the under-20’s event in 2020 and third in 2019.

Aberdeen University student Tom Graham-Marr, bronze medallist at under-20 level in 2020, is also in the Central squad.

Edinburgh-based Caithness athlete Andy Douglas will also be aiming for a good performance in the senior men’s 10k. The Great Britain mountain running international was silver medallist in 2012 and 2016 and picked up a bronze in 2018.

Michael Ferguson is to lead Aberdeen AAC’s challenge and he’ll be backed by Fearghas Thomson, Aaron Odentz and Steven Murray.

Fraserburgh Running Club’s Max Abernethy, the North District champion, is hoping to make his mark in what will be his first appearance in the men’s championship. East Sutherland’s Finlay Murray, silver medallist in the national 1500m indoor championships last weekend, hopes to make a successful adjustment to the expected muddy underfoot conditions.

Kyle Greig and Jim Tole are among the leading Metro Aberdeen runners taking part.

Lucas Cairns and Luke Davidson head a strong Inverness Harriers squad which also includes Finlay Raynor,Euan Rollo and Angus Smith in the under-20 men’s contest.

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